Action Alert — May 11, 2007

Urgent Alert — Please Take Action Now

Shocking "Deal" to Facilitate Passage of Bush NAFTA Expansions —
It's Up to Us to Stop It!

Corporate lobbyists and George W. Bush are applauding a "deal" announced last night on more NAFTA-style trade pacts. We need your help to make sure Congress knows we oppose staying the course on the failed Bush trade agenda. Act Now!

Dear Fair Trade Supporter,

Last November, Americans loudly rejected the Bush administration's more-of-the-same NAFTA expansion trade policy. The majority-making Democratic freshman class won by committing to end Bush's trade war on the middle class and force new rules for a fairer global economy.

But, shockingly, last night Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined the White House and congressional Democrats and Republicans in charge of trade to announce a "deal." The deal would facilitate passage of at least Bush's NAFTA expansions for Peru and Panama. The deal involves adding stronger labor and environmental standards, but falls way short of de-NAFTA-fying those two trade agreements by removing the bans on anti-off-shoring and Buy America policies, or the outrageous foreign investor rights that facilitate off-shoring and attacks on our health and environmental laws. It's a scenario where some truly tasty icing has been spread over a deeply rotten cake.

Most dangerously, if members of Congress are tricked into biting on this "deal" — applauded by corporate lobbyists and President Bush — it would pave the way for later passage of two even worse NAFTA expansions and, heaven forbid, giving President Bush new Fast Track trade authority.

We need your help immediately. Please contact your representative and both your senators and urge them to stand by the American public and reject this "deal" to pass more Bush NAFTA expansions!

Click here to take action:

Bush and other Republicans — and even some Democrats — are pointing to the "deal" as a path towards approval of not just the Peru and Panama NAFTA expansions (as some reporting suggested), but also similar NAFTA expansions to Colombia and South Korea, and even more Fast Track trade negotiating authority for President Bush.

"'We now have a way forward on Panama, Peru, Colombia, South Korea and even reauthorization of TPA [Fast Track]. I ... look forward to continuing to work with them to move these agreements and TPA reauthorization through Congress,' said Trade Subcommittee Ranking Member Wally Herger (R-Calif.)". [1]

The "deal" is also being applauded by corporate lobbyists, who have no interest in stronger labor or environmental rights, or in fixing any of the many other problems of the NAFTA model. In a rare moment of candor, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said that he is happy that the labor provisions in the "deal" seem toothless: "we are encouraged by assurances that the labor provisions cannot be read to require compliance with ILO [International Labor Organization] Conventions." [2]

We could write pages and pages about why this "deal" is such a tragedy — see below for some of the details. For ongoing analysis, make sure to keep checking our blog, Eyes On Trade (in particular this post by Todd Tucker), and also visit our friends David Sirota and MyDD, who have been tracking this since it was announced late yesterday afternoon.

And don't forget to take action!

Please contact Congress immediately to oppose this weakly camouflaged "deal" for more-of-the-same job-killing and environment-threatening NAFTA expansion.

Click here to take action:

And please, please, please forward this email to everyone you know. This is greatest challenge our fair trade movement has faced since the election of George W. Bush. We need your help now.

Yours in struggle,
The Global Trade Watch Team

[1] Press Release, Committee on Ways and Means, Thursday, May 10.
[2] "U.S. Congress, government in trade standards deal," Agence France Presse, May 11, 2007.

Talking Points: What's Wrong With the Bush-Rangel Trade "Deal"

Substance: The "Deal" Doesn't Even Attempt to Fix Most of the Problems with NAFTA-style Trade Pacts

The crux of the deal is to renegotiate Bush's NAFTA expansions deals to add stronger labor and environmental standards and to limit some of the extreme monopoly rights these trade agreements give Big Pharma to jack up poor countries' drug prices. Unfortunately, the deal fails to even address the many other damaging elements of the NAFTA model that have contributed to wage stagnation for U.S. workers, promoted off-shoring of millions of U.S. jobs, and exposed core domestic policies to challenge as "illegal trade barriers."

Among the minimal essential "fixes" labor, consumer and other organizations listed months ago as necessary for not opposing the "deal", which are not addressed or fixed in the "deal", include:

  • the outrageous ban on domestic anti-off-shoring policy and Buy America policies contained in the agreements' procurement chapters;
  • the NAFTA Chapter 11-style foreign investor rights that expose our most basic environmental, health, zoning and other laws to attack in foreign trade tribunals;
  • the serious threat the pacts' rules pose to our prevailing wage laws for government contracts and recycled content and renewable energy policies;
  • the agriculture rules that will foreseeably result in the displacement of millions of peasant farmers — increasing hunger, social unrest, desperate migration and, according to Peruvian and Colombian government reports, an increase in drug cultivation, trade and violence;
  • or the food safety limits that require us to import meat not meeting our safety standards — even as we face a new crisis of unsafe imported food.

Social Security Privatization Provision Not Fixed

Unbelievably, the "deal" also doesn't fix the Peru FTA provisions that would allow Citibank, or other U.S. investors providing "private retirement accounts," to sue Peruvian taxpayers if Peru tries to reverse its failed Social Security privatization. This problem in the FTA is deemed by Peru's labor federations to be a major impediment to reversing the failed partial privatization which is similar to what Democrats and most Americans opposed when it was proposed by President Bush for the United States.

Process: The Sneak-Attack Way the "Deal" was Negotiated and Announced was Outrageously Undemocratic

Unions, environmental groups, small businesses, and (most outrageously) most members of the U.S. Congress were excluded from the negotiations, had NO access to the various documents and texts and had no say — and in fact no notice — on the deal. The future of our national trade policy is too important to be decided behind closed doors by an insider "deal." Read more here.

What Next? This "Deal" is a Slippery Slope to a Frightening Colombia Trade Pact, and More Bush "Fast Track" (Abuse of) Authority

Speaker Pelosi has said that this "deal" only applies to the Peru and Panama agreement, but the corporate lobbyists, Republicans and the Bush administration have already said that this "deal" will, in the words of President Bush, provide "a clear path for advancing our proposed free trade agreements with Peru, Colombia, Panama, and South Korea."

More than 400 union members have been murdered since Colombian President Alvaro Uribe was elected. It is offensive to even consider a trade pact with Colombia. Our workers shouldn't have to compete with a country where the murder of union members is their comparative advantage. Despite the clear and vociferous opposition of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win labor federations to any Colombia FTA, this "deal" was cut without any assurances that the Colombia FTA would be stopped.

Republican leaders, the White House, and corporate lobbyists are already saying that this "deal" will pave the way to an extensive of FAST TRACK authority for President Bush. This president doesn't deserve any more executive authority, over anything — much less over the future of the global economy. And it is unimaginable that after all the abuse of the powers of the presidency by George Bush, that the new Democratic majority in Congress would even consider giving him any more authority — as Rangel says "he can imagine" doing.[3]

This slippery slope "deal" is a huge mistake — and that does not ever get to the incalculable political damage this deal could cause. If we don't stand up and say NO to this weak and totally insufficient compromise "deal," then we could see a domino-effect trade disaster.

What are Congress' Priorities Anyhow? The "Deal" Puts NAFTA Expansion Ahead of Any Pro-Working Family Legislation

President Bush has promised to veto the Employee Free Choice Act, which would support workers' rights to organize unions. Republicans and corporate lobbyists have held up legislation to increase the minimum wage; help on student loans has not become law; and the insurance industry has crushed any discussion of universal health care. By agreeing to more-of-the-same NAFTA expansion before assuring any increase in protections for the American middle class, the Democratic leadership in Congress is making a huge political and strategic mistake.

We are Courting Disaster: The Trade Deficit Set To Keep Ballooning

The Bush administration revealed yesterday that the trade deficit is at record highs, last year clocking in at $800 billion. Cosmetic changes to NAFTA deals with Peru and Panama are not going to have any impact on the deficit.

Listen to Us! Americans Are Worried About Trade

Polls numbers show an intense anxiety among the American public about the negative impact of trade agreements like NAFTA and the WTO. A majority of Americans believe these trade deals have hurt the financial situation of their families. Congress is making a big mistake by proposing a "deal" with President Bush on more NAFTA that will only lead to more bad outcomes for American families.

Contact Congress Now!

[3] Steven R. Weisman, "Bush and Democrats in Accord on Trade Deals," The New York Times, May 11, 2007.

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